SINGAPORE - A person wearing an old, torn shirt deserves as much respect as the next person, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he smilingly related how he often wears shirts with holes himself.
He gave his personal experience to illustrate how people should not look down on others because of physical appearances, when he urged Singaporeans to uphold an ethos of openness and informality to keep pathways open for all in society.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, he recalled reading about a hawker's assistant who was made fun of over a hole in his T-shirt.
A beauty queen had snapped a picture of him travelling on the MRT and posted it on Facebook in March with a sarcastic remark, sparking outrage among netizens who chided her for mocking him.
Mr Lee said: "I wear shirts with holes all the time, not in Parliament, but my wife says, 'It's got a hole in it'. I tell her, 'Only one, when it has three I'll consider the matter'."
In a society where there is an ethos of openness, this would not matter, he added.
Painting a picture of such a society, which he wants Singapore to be, he said it would be egalitarian, without rigid hierarchies or class distinctions. People would feel comfortable to interact "up and down the social ladder... without obsequious scraping and bowing".